Senator Francis Tolentino filed Senate Bill No. 1388, otherwise known as the “Good Samaritan at Sea Law.”
This law institutionalizes the duty to render assistance
(1) to any person found at sea in danger of being lost; and
(2) to another ship, its crew, and passengers, after a collision.
Under the proposed legislation, the failure to render the duty of assistance would be penalized by a fine of not less than P5M but not more than P10M.
If the violator is the cause or part of the ship that caused the distress at sea, the fine shall be not less than P10M but not more than P20M.
If the violation was committed within internal waters or within the territorial sea, an additional penalty of imprisonment of not less than 6 months but not more than 1 year shall be imposed.
If the violator is the cause or part of the ship that caused the distress at sea, an additional penalty of imprisonment of not less than 1 year and 1 day but no more than 2 years shall be imposed.
Repeat offenders or violators shalt be dealt with the maximum penalties allowed. No foreign person shall be deported without the payment of the imposed judicial and/or administrative fines and service of sentence if any.
“The Good Samaritan at Sea Law was originally filed during the 18th Congress following the June 2019 maritime incident in the West Philippine Sea involving 22 Filipino fishermen.”
According to Tolentino, the Good Samaritan at Sea Law was originally filed during the 18th Congress following the June 2019 maritime incident in the West Philippine Sea involving 22 Filipino fishermen.
This incident was a subject of a diplomatic protest filed by the Philippines after a Chinese vessel had reportedly collided with and sunk a Philippine fishing vessel, and then abandoned the sinking ship’s crew to drown in open waters.
The 22 Filipino fishermen were only later rescued by a Vietnamese boat and received assistance from the Philippine Navy patrol ship dispatched to the area.
“This bill was crafted to ensure that persons guilty of jeopardizing the lives of men at sea and those who unreasonably fail to render assistance to persons in distress at sea do not go unpunished.”
“This bill was crafted to ensure that persons guilty of jeopardizing the lives of men at sea and those who unreasonably fail to render assistance to persons in distress at sea do not go unpunished,” the legislator said.
It can be recalled that the Philippines had earlier ratified the following International Maritime instruments concerning the safety of life at sea and the duty to render assistance to persons in distress at sea: the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea, 1974, and its Protocols of 1978 and 1988 and Agreement of 1996 and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea of 1982.
As a lawmaker and a lawyer with a master’s degree in public international law, the senator further said the country is a key player in the global maritime industry.
As such, “it is but imperative for the country to stay true to its commitments to the international community to implement and enforce laws affecting maritime safety in order to protect not just the standing of the country in the international community but to protect the very lives of the thousands of Filipinos at sea.”
Just last month, 14 fishermen were rescued after drifting at sea for 3 days after their motorbanka encountered engine trouble in Siruma, Camarines Sur.
“This goes to show that this piece of legislation requires our preferential attention. It would not only institutionalize the act of being a good Samaritan to our neighbors, regardless of nationality, but more importantly would protect the lives of our Filipino fishermen. As you can see from Senate Bill No. 1388, it refers to ‘any person’ – so the Good Samaritan at Sea Law sees no nationality in giving a helping hand to any person sailing under any flag. As long as you are distressed, any person capable should help,” he concluded.